Ontario family refuses to pay hospital bill

A southwestern Ontario woman has received an $8,400 bill from a hospital in Windsor, Ont., after she refused to put her mother in a nursing home she hated — and she says she has no intention of paying it.

Michele Campeau and her 83-year-old mother, Ruth Poupard, are caught up in a relatively new law that allows hospitals to place discharged patients into nursing homes not of their choosing in order to free up beds. If patients refuse to move, they face a fine of $400 per day as they remain in the hospital.

The bill came from Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, where Campeau’s mother remains, with instructions to pay at the cashier’s office or by telephone or online. The hospital charged the family for 21 days in March.

“I’m never paying it because the law is wrong,” Campeau said. “It’s unfair what they’re trying to do to seniors.”

Her mother is still waiting for a spot in a long-term care home that would meet the family’s standards and Campeau is expecting an even bigger bill to land in the coming weeks as the daily fines rack up.

“We’re expecting another bill for $12,000 soon,” she said.

The law that allows hospitals to issue such fines — known as the More Beds, Better Care Act, or Bill 7 — was passed by the Doug Ford government in the fall of 2022 in an effort to open up much-needed hospital space.

It is aimed at so-called alternate level of care patients who are discharged from hospital, but need a long-term care bed and don’t have one yet.

Hospitals can send patients to nursing homes not of their choosing up to 70 kilometers away, or up to 150 kilometers away in northern Ontario, if spaces open up there first.

Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare said it cannot comment on Poupard’s case due to patient confidentiality.

The last few years have been tough for Poupard. Dementia set in, she underwent a heart valve transplant and survived cancer. She moved in with her daughter, who took care of her and became her power of attorney.

Poupard’s most recent health-care journey began shortly after Christmas when she hallucinated during the night, fell and broke her hip. Campeau rushed her to hospital, where she had surgery. As part of her recovery, Poupard moved to Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare for rehabilitation.

By Feb. 21, Poupard recovered to a point where her physician determined she no longer needed the hospital’s specialized care and discharged her.

Campeau and her brother decided that they alone would not be able to manage their mother’s needs if she returned to live in her daughter’s home.

So the family worked with a placement co-ordinator at the hospital and put five long-term care homes on Poupard’s list. But those were full. Discussions about adding more nursing homes to Poupard’s list then began, under the provisions of the new law.

Campeau agreed to put more nursing homes on her mother’s list and the co-ordinator added homes until one that had a spot available came up. Campeau then had 24 hours to visit the nursing home and make a decision.

If she refuses to move her mom into that long-term care home in downtown Windsor, the hospital says they’ll start charging her $400 a day. Campeau said she visited the home and found it “disgusting,” refusing to place her mother there.

Several weeks later, the first bill landed.

The hospital also charged Poupard a co-pay rate — the rate she would pay in a long-term care home — of $653.20 for 10 days in March before she refused the move into that one nursing home.

“I paid it like I did the one in February, which I’m more than happy to do,” Campeau said of the co-pay. “But I’m not paying $400 a day because I didn’t go along with their plan to put her in a disgusting home.”

The province said it believes only seven people have been fined under the law and that hospitals are responsible for the administration of fines. Health Minister Sylvia Jones said they could not disclose how many patients were charged due to patient confidentiality.

Campeau is now in limbo, unclear on what the future holds.

“I have no idea what happens next,” she said. “I really just want my mom in a decent spot, that’s all.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 9, 2024.